Odisha has been hub of various whimsical artistries and one amongst it is Palm leaf Engraving. The Origination of the art happened around 5th century B.C.E. at India’s Best Kept Secret (Odisha), where it’s known to be Tala Patta Chittra The artistry was initially used for writing horoscopes and decoration of manuscripts with illustrative depiction of the stories and took over become an art on its own. From passing on information on manuscript to coming generation to narrating mythological tales to the public, to making horoscopes to cards to other utility products like Tea Posters , Canisters, Lamp Sheds ,Flower Vases and many more decorative items , the art had travelled a long way .
Through this long journey of around fourteen thousand years where science and technology are dominating, this beauty has heroes who are taking forward this “DEVKALA” (THE ART FORM OF GOD).Puri one amongst the Chaardham has a little hamlet –Raghurajpur where Benudhar Mohapatra, the master of palm leaf paining trains hundreds of artist with his son Arun U. Mohapatra who himself is a state awardees . Mr. Benudhar has carried the skills from his ancestors and is a awardees of several awards for his marvellous work of “Tala Patta Chittra”. He also had trained tourist from various states and spread the art. The district has received 7 president awards for finest painting on palm leaf. This diamond is polished hard to be this precious and gorgeous. The polishing involves trails in the process:
Palm leaves are prepared in a seasoning process before painting the beauty on its body. The leaves are dried for a month or two and put into swamps.
After cutting into pieces of the required size or are sewing as per the size, turmeric solution is applied to take care of the longevity of the painting.
With iron stylus the leaf is etched or engraved. Then colour is spread with a cloth all over the leaf.
The colours are organic and 100% natural and made by the artist themselves. There are 5 basic colours. They are White, Black, Green, Yellow and Red yet other colours are also used. What is more surprising is to know they extract colours from conch shell, lamp soot oil ,green leaves
Each and every step is carried without machines.
Palm leaves are brittle and slightest mistakes can damage the leaf and wash away the whole work.
The dedication and involvement throughout the process is exemplary .The artists have been doing this as their duty to paint for Lord Jagannath. The theme of Tala Patta Chittra is mostly mythological and religious and we’re used to worship God, though in recent times photographs have replaced them . Gita Govinda , Ramayana, Mahabharat and life stories were some of the topics of the engraves. Existing from Ashoka’s time in Odisha and lakhs of manuscript containing temple architecture , Ayurveda and miniature paintings have attracted researchers from years. The faith and belief the craftsmen have on Lord Jagannath have given them enough strength to overcome hurdles. The village being at the coastal line have always been prone to cyclones. The cyclone FANI in the year 2019 had taken away many paintings with the waters. Also the market for these artists is declining with years. There’s also lack of promotion and patronage to carry this artistry ahead. The art which can earn them a good amount of money for living is remaining stagnant for markets . The State plan to get the GI tag for “Tala Patta Chitra” would get them legal protection to the craft prevents its unauthorised use and enhances its demands in the international markets. The GI TAG aspirant craft is prevalent in Raghurajpur, also has small centres at Nayakpatna ,Balanga ,Nikalata, Jatni , Balipatna and Kalapathar and around 500 and more artist in a wait for cognizance for the charisma their hands make.
Palm Leaf Engraving holds a charm with its fine lines, minimum colours motifs and handcrafts . The fine pictorial depiction makes it stand out of the crowd.The artistry is even more unique when it comes to maintaining the quality. With years and eras palm leaf painting is evolving a higher quality of craftsmanship and also these are evolving to be more aesthetic. Starting from GOD and related art this also now taken swift jump to decoratives without comprising the quality.. TALA PATTA CHTTRA is a treasured art which is booming under masters of craftsmanship of the Odisha. All this form needs is more space in this tremendous market to get recognition, admiration, love and sale